My research is dependent on migratory birds being present on their wintering grounds in the Appalachian Mountains in the month of March. But this year it was an unseasonably warm winter, and it was not possible to know when migrants would depart for their breeding grounds. Luckily, the temperatures dropped again and the migrants hung around these wintering grounds for another month.
It is becoming more common that organisms are changing where they live and when they migrate in response to climate change. Climate change affects ecosystems and climate zones by disrupting weather and temperature patterns and by producing catastrophic storms (IPCC 2013). Almost all plants and animals need stable environmental patterns in order to survive. Once unstable, species must find a new suitable habitat or will be unable to survive. This map (courtesy of Dan Majka) shows projected paths taken by organisms relocating to more suitable habitats. But what if some species are just not able to adjust? Plant and animal diversity may consequently decline at an alarming rate as organisms succumb to changing environments. (more…)